Introduction to SA 8000 – Social Accountability Standard
SA 8000 (Social Accountability 8000) is the first international certification on social responsibility. Its main objective is to guarantee workers’ rights, in such a way that everyone involved wins: companies, workers, trade unions, government.
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The standard Requirements SA8000 was launched in 1997 by CEPAA – Council on Economics Priorities Accreditation Agency, an NGO, later renamed to SAI – Social Accountability International. Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000) is the first global standard for corporate social responsibility. SA8000 is based on both international human rights´ conventions (International Labour Organization, the International Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and satisfying relevant local legislation. It aims to guarantee basic rights of workers involved in the production processes. SA 8000 Standard is composed of 9 requirements:
Child labour is not permitted
Forced labour is not permitted
Health and safety have to be assured
Freedom to organize and collective bargaining have to be guaranteed
Discrimination is not permitted
Disciplinary practices are not permitted
Working hours shall not exceed 48 hrs a week, with a maximum of 12 hrs overtime
Remuneration shall be sufficient
Who can apply for certification?
SA8000 follows the structures of both the Quality Management Standards ISO9000 and the Environment Management Standard ISO14000, and emphasizes the importance of an on-going improvement process. Development and ongoing oversight of the standard is addressed by a multi-sector Advisory Board with experts from business, trade unions, government and NGOs from around the world and across industries. Facilities seeking certification of compliance to the standard must have robust management systems in place and undergo an audit by an independent, accredited certification body. SAI and its Advisory Board oversee the accreditation of certification bodies, which are required to demonstrate extensive background in systems auditing, intensive training in SA8000, and the institutional capacity to assure quality and responsiveness. There are currently nine accredited certification bodies that have certified facilities in 30 countries. SAI regularly consults with international experts on ways to strengthen certification audits and the SA8000 guidance documents.
Companies seeking to independently verify their social record
Companies seeking to independently verify their own social record and that of their contractors
Contractors that produce goods for U.S. and European companies and wish to demonstrate to companies and consumers that they are treating workers fairly
Development or multilateral organizations seeking to ensure that they procure from companies that are not exploitative
How Companies Can Implement SA 8000 Standard?
There are two options:
1) Certification to SA8000
2) Involvement in the Corporate Involvement Program (CIP)
Certification to SA8000
Companies that operate production facilities can seek to have individual facilities certified to SA8000 through audits by one of the accredited certification bodies. Since the SA8000 system became fully operational in 1998, there are certified facilities in 30 countries on five continents and across 22 industries.
SA8000 Corporate Involvement Program
Companies that focus on selling goods or that combine production and selling can join the SA8000 Corporate Involvement Program. The CIP is a two-level program that helps companies evaluate SA8000, implement the standard, and report publicly on implementation progress.
1. SA8000 Explorer (CIP Level One): Evaluate SA8000 as an ethical sourcing tool via pilot audits
2. SA8000 Signatory (CIP Level Two):
Implement SA8000 over time in some or all of the supply chain through certification
Communicate implementation progress to stakeholders via SAI-verified public reporting
The CIP was launched in late 1999 and has attracted entities representing more than $100 billion in annual revenue including Amana SA, Avon, Cutter & Buck, Dole, Eileen Fisher, Otto Versand, Tex Line, Toys “R” Us, UNOPS, and Vögele Mode. Program benefits include training courses for managers, suppliers and workers, technical assistance in implementing SA8000, access to a shared database of suppliers, and the right to use the SAI and SA8000 logos to communicate with stakeholders.
Benefits of SA8000
Along with humane workplaces, the implementation of SA8000 offers more benefits to workers, companies and others:
Benefits for Workers, Trade Unions and NGOs
Enhanced opportunities to organize trade unions and bargain collectively
A tool to educate workers about core labour rights
Another opportunity to work directly with business on labour rights issues
Public awareness of companies committed to assuring humane working conditions
Benefits for business
Putting company values into action
Enhancing company and brand reputation
Improving employee recruitment, retention and performance
Better supply chain management and performance
Benefits for Consumers and Investors
Clear and credible assurance for ethical purchasing decisions
Identification of products made ethically and companies committed to ethical sourcing
Broad coverage of product categories and production geography.